On the eve of Plant's trip to Miami for the Class 4A championship against Ponte Vedra Beach Nease, the last coach from Hillsborough County to make the same trip, Armwood's Sean Callahan, sat down with Times staff writer Scott Purks to discuss the big game. Callahan, a winner of state titles in 2003 and 2004 at Florida Field, lost to Nease 44-37 in the 2005 state final at Dolphin Stadium, where Plant plays today. Here are Callahan's thoughts:
Looking back on last year's game there are a couple of things that jump out: first Tim Tebow, who was everything he was billed to be; second, was how well that team was coached. They were coached down to every detail, making their reads, fundamentally, everything. I saw a little tape of them this year and it's more of the same.
I would say Nease is not as athletic as (Miami) Booker T. Washington (which Plant defeated 20-15 in the state semifinal), but then no one is as athletic as Booker T. Washington. ...I like to have a team with enough skills guys and then some guys who are strong and play their roles. Nease has that kind of a mix, enough skill players and some linemen, for instance, who are tremendous. Their linemen have manhandled teams.
I still believe Plant can win and there are a few things that are key to that end. (Plant) needs to somehow make them throw the ball. They need to somehow stop (Nease's) running attack. Nease can still throw it, but Plant needs to make them rely more on passing.
I think Plant has a chance because of Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 (Cam Martin, Patrick Carter, Chris Kuzdale, Luke Rorech, Derek Winter, Cornelius Gallon and Thompson Brandes) and Robert Marve, who is the X factor. Plant's skill guys (No. 1-6) are very, very good, but Marve puts them over the top. As long as Marve is in the game they have a chance. Marve is that good.
Plant also needs to continue to be opportunistic, creating those turnovers (Plant has a 17-1 turnover ratio in the four playoff games) and making big plays..
If I had one piece of advice for Plant it would be to stay hydrated. Before our game last year (played at 1 p.m., the same as Plant on Saturday) we ate a very salty breakfast, eggs, bacon, sausage and we didn't drink enough water. Midway through the first half I had guys coming up to me and saying they couldn't go, saying they were tired. At halftime we went in and I was passing out Gatorades to my guys and when I passed by Nease's locker room I saw they had a machine with 11 guys hooked up to IVs.
I think the score will be somewhere in the low 20s and it will be close. Both teams are going to score their share of points and the team who is the most opportunistic and makes the least mistakes will win.
I hope Plant gets it done. If they won it would be great for Hillsborough County football. I wish them luck.